The Victor & Rolf debate
Having viewed the highlights of the Victor & Rolf haute couture A/W 15 held in Paris, the collection held the infamous question at the forefront of its pieces: Is fashion art?
There are art enthusiasts I know who hate to have an abstract piece on display in Tate Modern even associated with a (gasp!) dress! But you know what, I think the lines are blurred between what one can consider art. If you think about it, many of the artists that have had an exhibit in an art institution started out with their concept being laughed at by the masses, who deemed their strategy and explanation of their work as ‘silly’ or nonsense, and had to convince the public over time that what they have created is a work of art. So why can’t fashion be the same?
Time and effort
It also takes immense skill to create some of the couture designs that are shown at fashion week and are worthy enough to be on permanent display in the Victoria & Albert museum, so why is the craftsmanship and skill or an illustrator/sketch artist who can turn his drawing into a one-off wearable piece of clothing that may have taken thousands of man-hours to finish and more than a handful older, experienced embroiderer to make. Why is it art if an abstract artist can use brush strokes on canvas to create a story and evoke emotion, yet when this is carried out in the manner of something that is wearable that it becomes a question of if this is item can be categorised the same?
If you go by the *definition of art being “…the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form” then fashion can be art. Now this does not mean all fashion is art, considering some of the useless designs I see on sale on the high street, but if you focus on haute couture for now, and ateliers that have been trading for over 75 years, I’m sure you’ll be able to find at least one piece from a past collection that you can consider art.
Is fashion art?
It’s obviously subjective, but to me, fashion is art, i.e., but only selective pieces. I have seen couture from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto, Gareth Pugh, Coco Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier (with special mention of the detailed impressive tailoring of both Alexander McQueen) up close and in detail and I cannot describe them any other way but as art.
Here are some examples below, including the infamous Ralf and Russo haute couture wedding dress shown as Part of Paris fashion week a/W 14, also shown at the V&A Fashion in Motion series.